Friday, July 29, 2005

Thoughts on the Bar; forthcomng posts; a word of thanks.

On the Bar exam

To those who have survived it: congratulations. In approximately 3-4 months (they're shooting for less than 90 days in Pennsylvania, despite a record-breaking largest-ever pool of applicants taking the test) you'll receive word (Pennsylvania applicants: look for the list in the Legal Intelligencer as well as the released list at that you are, or are not, allowed to practice law in your jurisdiction. Congratulations if you pass, and do not despair if you do not. Most people do pass, at least in Pennsylvania; check your local listings for specific information.

People do fail the Bar, and retake it, and most pass. You have seen the worst it's possible to get; you took the prep classes (I hope), you studied in misery and solitude and desperation, and you sat for the Bar. Doing it again is undesirable but far from uncommon.

On taking it itself, if you're wondering:
- Harder than you can probably imagine, the studying and preparation and sitting for a two-day multiple subject closed-book test of will
(unless you're a med student, in which case, this will all seem like whining)
- Easier than you picture, if you believe the hype. It is not the "hardest thing you've ever done."

Taking the SAT was hard. Taking the LSAT was hard. Going to law school was hard. The Bar is not hard. The Bar is a massive, difficult, unpleasant, soul-crushing task, but it is not *hard*. It's a "test of minimum competence." Follow the instructions, read the questions, prepare adequately beforehand, and you should pass if you are good at tests.

On the fact of relatively easier questions:
BAR/BRI warns its students that their scores are lower on the practice tests than they will be under testing conditions. This is because the Bar is easier than the practice tests.

The simple explanation is that the Bar examiners release bad questions, don't want or need them anymore, and that's what BAR/BRI and the others have to work with. You practice on the ones so poorly written, so badly planned, so unanswerable that they're available to the practice class folks. The Real Questions aren't that awful, that unfair.

Forthcoming Posts
I've been lax in posting lately, but I'm getting more used to the idea of regular, meaningful posting, and have some ideas in the back of my mind.

I plan to post about:
  • oaths. there was some good blog chatter in the blawgosphere about various pledges and oaths. I have a little more to add, and want to bring together those links in one space. I also had a great comment, thanks Anonymous #4, about the duties all attorneys should feel, the weight and responsibility of being "Esquire" in the post on that word. I have the sense that this is a theme I will return to: our duties, as well as our privileges, as lawyers.

  • Scalia. I keep promising this; it's coming, it's coming. It'll be my longest post yet, and it should be as cleanly written as possible so that it's at all readable.

  • Class actions. They're a funny old procedural mechanism, but they offer vast opportunities for abuse and redemption of the legal system. How are they used? What's wrong with them? What's right with them? What wrong decisions have been made about them? I don't know it all yet, but I want to explore some of these questions. On that note, anyone know of a decent blawg that focuses on Class Action matters? Overlawyered hits the negative every chance they get; Evan Schaeffer portrays the positive side in his kind of litigation. I want to be more general, and as balanced as is fairly possible.

  • Words, meaning, and language. We "do" words in the law; just as mathematics is the true language of science, words, English words, are "the language" of (American) law - except, as noted previously (the post on Esquire, among others) where it's foreign words, and except where science is the language the law must use, or where any other specialized subject matter with its own language must come in. Even where there's jargon, though, Law is made (and argued before and decided by) humans, who operate in ways that linguists (as well as, say, psychologists and sociologists) study. I'm interested in this last aspect. The brouhaha (love that word) over the use of the word niggardly (what an ugly-sounding word) for example: What does it mean to use that word, what impact on your effectiveness as an advocate or as a persuasive writer is there when people are focusing on it?

  • Roberts. He's been the focus of attention in politics and law for some weeks now. I've discussed him in comments on other blawgs, I've briefly described him, but I suspect that I have some organized things to say if I bring my thoughts to bear. And if I don't, this post won't happen.

As always, I welcome - indeed, beg for - comments about which way this blog should go. I've got some ideas, but this is primarily a communication tool rather than a traditional part of the Media. I can't have a conversation if noone else plays, even though there's no obligation to identify yourself in comments nor to check back to see if I've responded (or if anyone else has, for that matter).

And, for those of you who like to know this kind of thing, I'm moving to Powerblogs in the near future, thanks primarily to the suggestions of Mike of Crime & Federalism blog. Yes, I realize he's on Typepad. That's not the point. Thanks for the advice, Mike, and to everyone else (Sean Sirrine, the Volokh gang, others) who have given feedback or otherwise had useful posts recommending one or another of the various hosting services.

This blog will remain here as is, preserved, as an archive; I will be starting-over-with-links-both-ways on Powerblogs in the coming days and weeks. I hope you'll like the new Look of Unused & Probably Unusable.

Eh N.


At 11:05 AM, July 29, 2005, Anonymous The smallest defender said...

I'd like more posts tha tinvolve me, even tangentially, like today's did.

Besides that, I like the "law and the language" angle you take. I oftened wondered why you didn't take a minor in Linguistics when we were in college, and I look forward to seeing your commentary on the confluence of law and ling.

At 11:52 AM, July 29, 2005, Blogger Eh Nonymous said...

Not "tangentially," tSB: you were the 'reason for the season,' as the cliche does go but shouldn't. Congratulations on taking (hopefully passing) the Bar.

I didn't minor in Linguistics because I was all about avoiding extra requirements (my major had quite enough of those, thank you) and the department was quite rigorous.

In order to take a minor, I would have had to take quite a number of classes, some of them unpleasantly quantitative (I love quantitative results from sociolinguistics or syntax or phonology or phonetics or child language acquisition; I do not love generating said quantitative results), and many in areas I had no interest in taking a full-blown class in.

I took a general introduction to linguistics which dealt briefly with the major branches of that study; learned enough to appreciate what they do on Language Log, q.v.; took sociolinguistics from the preeminent scholar in that field; and then gave it a rest.

Also, look for my new blawg address, coming soon to a theater near you.

At 11:53 AM, July 29, 2005, Blogger Eh Nonymous said...

argh, "tSD" not tsB. Or just SD for short. Or should it be sd, to illustrate the diminutive nature of said defender...

At 12:13 PM, July 29, 2005, Blogger shell said...

Even though I'm not even close to taking the Bar (yet), today I breathe a sigh of relief as the heavy mist of pure agony (emitting by Bar blawggers) finally vaporized. All that's left is mere anxiety.

BTW, although in PA most people pass the retakes, the opposite is true in CA (some speculate it's due to CA's allowance of non-ABA-but-CalBar-Approved graduates take the examinations). Many nervous rising 3L & 1L have proposed to study at Univ. of Wisconsin to avoid taking the Bar altogether.

Like you, I also enjoyed classes outside my major: linguistics, microbiology, and even computer science. However, I wouldn't have cared enough to excel in these courses purely because I'm not a hardcore scientist.


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